World Meningitis Day, April 24th!

Another exciting month has gone by, and I definitely need to share it!  

Every year in Austin, the city welcomes the international festival for interactive media, film, and music known as South by Southwest and this year I was a part of it! I have been attending the festival ever since I was 21 and now on my seventh year, I was able to share my story with people from all of the world.  It took place on the first Friday of the festival. I was presenting with Moncef Slaoui from London part of GSK's chairman of vaccines, proctored by Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and technology journalist.  Of course we spoke about the importance of vaccines, especially with my personal encounter with a vaccine preventable disease, but also shared Moncef's history with company.  He's been working with GSK for a couple of decades (I believe), and was mentioning how he played part in the making of the malaria vaccine.  Vaccines are medical innovations that protect our communities.  I hope no one takes these medical miracles for granted.  If I knew about the meningitis vaccine before contracting the disease, I would have been proactive in protecting myself from this terrible disease.  The SXSW event was a huge success!  The room was filled with people peering and standing over each other to see us speaking.  Shortly after the engagement, Sree introduced me to Facebook Live which is a live news feed from a phone and Sree wanted to share my story with his thousands of followers.  Needless to say, I had a lot of Facebook friend requests afterward.

April is a very important month to me because World Meningitis Day is on April 24th which usually means that I’m out traveling and contributing to a lot of different media frenzy all leading up to WMD! Last week I was in Manhattan for another wonderful photo-shoot with the world renowned photographer Anne Geddes. I was part of her Protecting Our Tomorrow’s Campaign which captured 14 different meningitis survivors from around the world.  I was lucky enough to represent the United States. I do what I can to speak, but sometimes I’m in awe that I was able to take my message from a local level, to national, and now global.  I’m truly honored and lucky because I was able to do it again with Anne Geddes.  While this project is similar to capture meningitis survivors, this campaign is more geared toward the 2016 Rio Paralympics!  I was able to meet athletes who are on their way to Rio.  If you didn’t know, I’m not on the road to Rio.  People ask all the time if I’ll be competing and the answer is no.  I haven’t been on the US team for a bit of time but it doesn’t mean that I won’t be looking at 2020 Tokyo.  Stay tuned…

Being on the set with Anne was amazing, and great to see her husband Kel and daughter Steph again. Such a phenomenal family. What made this shoot completely different from the previous was that I was going to be working with babies. Which is what Anne Geddes is known for!? So I was excited to see the master at work!  She was like the baby whisperer.  I was there, ready on set with makeup and wardrobe.  All that was needed was the baby, and then Mother Teresa, Anne Geddes, turned the corner and there was the baby in her arms, being oh so quiet.  I was a bit nervous, but more excited to be holding a 3-week old baby! The baby's name was Sienna and she was beautiful!  It was important to be patient on a shoot like this, and with time we got the perfect shot! I can’t wait to see the final product!  Stay posted to see the final result!

The next day, I was lined up for a handful of hours for media training because the next day I had a Satellite Media Tour with 26 interviews over 7 hours.  The long day awaited.  A SMT is basically interviews conducted in a studio that gets broadcasted from all over the world – some were taped, some radio, and some were live TV!  I was doing all of my interviews with Dr. Leonard Friedland who is the Vice President, Director Scientific Affairs and Public Health, Vaccines North America at GSK.  He’s a wonderful person and I feel so lucky to have been working by his side.  He is filled with knowledge and if you have any questions about meningitis you can email him at Leonard.r.friedland@gsk.com. In the end, the SMT was another huge success!

 Satellite Media Tour with Dr. Friedland

Satellite Media Tour with Dr. Friedland

World Meningitis Day was this past Sunday and it really was one of the more proud events that I’ve been a part of.  It was called the “Hour of Power” a rowing/cycling event held in Philadelphia, PA.  The event collaborated with college student there in Philly, to form groups to pedal or row through an “hour of power” to raise awareness of meningococcal disease among students and athletes.  It was an event like no other!  I do share my messages on my story a lot, all mainly formal events but this hour of power event was energy filled!  After Dr. Friedland and I spoke about the importance of educating about the disease, it was all shouting team work!  I was part of a team of 4 other ladies from Gamma Phi Betta along side with Dr. Friedland and we definitely powered that hour!  The event was tremendous and used the hashtag #winformeningitis ! By the end of the event, everyone was shouting Win For Meningitis! The event was hugely successful and it has me thinking about next year already!  

 With our Power Hour cycling team!

With our Power Hour cycling team!